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Jump to: navigation, search -- Beyond Books: News, Literacy and Democracy and America's Libraries

Cambridge, Mass. (Boston), April 6-7, 2011 at the MIT Center for Future Civic Media


For three centuries, in American towns large and small, two institutions have uniquely marked a commitment to participatory democracy, learning and open inquiry -- our libraries and our free press. Today, as their tools change, their mission of civic engagement and information transparency converge. Economic and technology changes suggest an opportunity for collaboration among these two historic community information centers -- one largely public, one largely private. How?


Join Journalism That Matters and other sponsors (below) on Wednesday and Thursday, April 6 and 7, 2011, for “Beyond Books: News, Literacy, Democracy and America’s Libraries,” (short title: "BiblioNews") a work session for civic engagement and information transparency, at MIT in Cambridge, preceding the National Conference for Media Reform (Fri-Sun) in nearby Boston. Location: Bartos Theatre, MIT Center for Future Civic Media, Media Lab Building E15, Lower Atrium, 25 Carleton St., Cambridge MA 02142.</big>



The capability of newspapers to provide community information is declining. At the same time, informal sources of local information are rapidly increasing.

Libraries and legacy media always shared a common purpose -- helping us acquire the information we need to be engaged, informed (and entertained) citizens. They used different tools -- newspapers, broadcast stations and books. Now the tools are converging -- web search, data taxonomies, database creation and analysis, social networks -- as librarians and journalists together foster civic literacy and engagement.

Librarians want to expand public access to accurate information, including trustworthy local news. So do journalists. How do we expand libraries as community information centers beyond books -- perhaps even beyond their four walls -- facilitating and engaging with journalists? What can libraries and journalists do -- together -- to foster improved access to community information?


Thus, as the tools and mission converge, it's time to ask:
"What's possible at the intersection of libraries and journalism
that serves the information needs of communities and democracy?"

Via a pre-event social network, an evening agenda-setting dialogue, a day of roundtable planning and action commitments, we’ll discover what’s possible at the intersection of public spaces, open documents, citizen reporting and journalistic purpose. Questions we may ask:

  • What might libraries do to facilitate community social news networks?
  • Must free speech be absolute within a taxpayer-supported institution?
  • How do we define the boundaries between engagement and partisanship?
  • As cable fades, are libraries poised to become public-access media centers?
  • Should a library operate a news collective, non-profit or citizen-journalism service?
  • How can libraries help preserve a free digital information commons?


A growing list of co-sponsors include Journalism That Matters, the MIT Center for Future Civic Media, the American Library Association, the Media Giraffe Projectat UMass-Amherst and the New England News Forum.


Among our collaborators are(alpha order): Joe Bergantino (New England Center for Investigative Reporting), Jessica Durkin (New America Foundation fellow), Mike Fancher (RJI / Seattle Times-retired), Fabrice Florin (NewsTrust), Marsha Iverson (ALA board and King County libraries), Library Leadership & Management Assn. (LLMA), Alan Inouye (director, Office of Info Tech Policy, ALA), Nancy Kranich (Rutgers Univ., chair ALA Center for Public Life), Lorrie LeJeune and Andrew Whitacre (MIT C4FCM), Leigh Montgomery (Christian Science Monitor librarian), Donna Nicely (Knight Commission/Nashville Public Library), Patrick Phillips (Vineyard Voice), Josh Stearns (, Colin Rhinesmith (Univ. of Illinois), Bill Densmore, (New England News Forum/Media Giraffe Project/Reynolds Journalism Institute).

We chose those dates -- a Wednesday evening and full day on Thursday -- because that's immediately before the National Conference for Media Reform (NCMR), also in Boston. And you can register once for Beyond Books and be cross-registered to NCMR -- for one package price of only $175 between now and Feb. 28 -- almost four days of sessions and networking!

How can libraries, educational institutions and reporters/editors collaborate using the web to foster the values, principles and purposes of journalism?

How might public, university and school libraries expand their role as community information centers to inspire and perhaps equip citizens who want to practice and support the values, principles and purposes of journalism?


(First two bullets excerpted from an Oct. 3, 2010 Associated Press story available at the USAToday website.)

See also: "The Role of Libraries in the Digital Age," (Pew/Lee Rainie), and the RESEARCH DATASET.


Wednesday -- Convene for afternoon networking session about 3 p.m. on Wed., April 6. Buffet supper at MIT, then an evening panel/program. Thursday -- Continental breakfast at 8:30 a.m.; program start at 9 a.m., run through 5 p.m. with snack breaks and box lunch. Birds-of-a-feather Dutch Treat (you pay) dinner arrangements facilitated.


  • Wed/Thurs. -- $75.00
  • Thurs. ONLY -- $50.00

Inclusive registration for the National Conference for Media Reform (April 8-10)

(includes both events, Wed.-Sunday) .

  • Through March 1: $175.00 (combines BiblioNews & NCMR)
  • After March 1: $225.00 (combines BiblioNews & NCMR)

Lodging Options

The Kendall Hotel, one block from our venue, has reserved until March 6 a block of rooms at $189/night plus taxes and fes for Wednesday or Thursday and $139/night on Friday and Saturday (for participants staying for the NCMR). Both rates include free Internet access, continental breakfast, and a pass to a nearby fitness center. For reservations, please call 1-866-566-1300 or 1-617-577-1300 and ask for the "Biblionews Conference" rate. A credit card must be provided at the time of reservation to secure the booking. The Kendall hotel at the Engine 7 Firehouse / 350 Main St., Cambridge MA 02142.

A negotiated rate of $209/night is pending with the Cambridge Marriott (617-494-6600), two blocks from our meeting place. You will receive a code to access the rate with the email which confirms your registration to participate in BiblioNews. We will post a page with additional lodging options soon.


"The Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP) at the ALA Washington Office is working on a policy brief on the evolving newspaper industry and the implications for libraries. In a number of communities, the ability of newspapers to provide local community information is declining. At the same time, informal sources of local information are rapidly increasing. What are libraries doing to foster improved access to community information in the context of these changes?"

ALA-cited issues:

  • Empowering patrons to create their own news and media at the grassroots level. Such endeavors might include enhancing patrons’ skills in creating do-it-yourself forms of media using technology tools and resources available at the library
  • Generating news-like content via community documentation projects hosted at a library
  • Partnering with other like-minded organizations to create news collectives, non-profits, or citizen journalism projects






(Atrium is bigger than photo suggests)